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Warm Roasted Veg and Bean Salad with Israeli Couscous and Toasted Sesame Seeds

With being sick for the past two weeks, not working out as a consequence, the abundance of Stir It 28 food, and Chicago Restaurant Week, my body is screaming mercy!!! This Monday I managed my first work out without collapsing. I had brought some leftovers from the event Sunday for lunch, but after that workout my body craved salad. Then for dinner I wasn’t that hungry, but Certain Someone wanted something quick, like sausages. I honestly couldn’t stomach the though of eating meat, which I love, but couldn’t handle that day. So I looked in the refrigerator and saw some leftover cooked red beans, sliced red peppers, onions, green bell peppers, fresh asparagus, parsley, and zucchini. I had also purchased some of that large luscious looking Israeli Couscous earlier. Marie, Proud Italian Cook, had gifted me some lemon infused olive oil, which I love. So an idea for a salad started to form while Certain Someone’s sausages were cooking away. Maybe it was subliminal with the many Meatless Monday tweets I see, or all the talk about Lenten sacrifices. But I listen to my body and felt quite satisfied with the wonderful salad I put together. I even brought some for lunch the following day.

If you don’t know, John Hopkins School of Public Health has out together a wonderful program to promote your personal good health and the health of the planet. By pledging to give up meat and its by products on Mondays, the ‘start’ of the week, we reduce our changes of diseases linked to obesity as well as help the planet.

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Our goal is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

We provide the information and recipes you need to start each week with healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives.

Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt galvanized the nation with voluntary meatless days during both world wars.

By reviving this American tradition we can help address the challenges we face today. We can improve our health, reduce our carbon footprint and lead the world in the race to mitigate climate change.

I doubt I can get Certain Someone on board with Meatless Mondays, but maybe ease him into this. But , I , for one will start. Being a good cooks, I know that one can eat some exciting creative foods adhering to the vegan rule. Its just one day!
Warm Roasted Veg and Bean Salad with Israeli Couscous and Toasted Sesame Seeds

*please note you make many variations on this salad based on your preferences. So use this guide.

1 cup Israeli Couscous

1 cube vegetable bouillon

1 bunch Asparagus Spears chopped

1 half red pepper sliced

1 half green bell pepper sliced

1 zucchini sliced

1 /2 white onion sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Dried Italian Seasoning

1 cup cooked red kidney beans (I made mine from scratch but you can use canned, drained and rinsed)

1 bunch parsley chopped

½ cup lemon infused olive oil

½ cup Balsamic Vinegar

3 tbsp sesame seeds

In a small pot with lid add ¼ cup boiling water and vegetable bouillon. Dissolve cube. Add Couscous and cover with lid for several minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with a rim with parchment paper. Add the vegetables and toss with the olive oil on the sheet. Season with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Bake at 450 F for 10-15 min until they start to brown and are tender. Remove and set aside.

In a large bowl, add chopped parsley, Couscous, red kidney beans, vegetables, and the remaining ½ cups each of lemon infused olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Toss all ingredients and set aside.

In a dry skillet lightly toast the sesame seeds, and add some to salad ad on top as garnish.
 Serve at room temperature.

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Stir It 28... The Actual Event Had a Ripple Effect

You know about the ripple effect. You toss a stone into the water and see the endless ripples project out from the center of  where the thrown object landed. That's what Stir It 28 was for me. I will not lie to say I was worried about meeting the expectations of the rest of the group for the Chicago side. From the get go, I had my network of people who were willing to help, and boy did they help. I could have never done it with out them. In between work and Master Chef auditions, February was just tight for time and focus. I was worried about the sales, as I had the least online sales compared to ATL, LA, and NYC. You cant say I didn't promote the hell out of it via twitter and Face book, but the sales were not there. Chicago is huge city and asking for $30 on top of a cash bar with competing Restaurant Week  other fund raising initiatives and other events was hard. But I tried to stay positive and just wanted to get through Sunday. The words of  my mother  "Fret Not and to worry is a sin" stayed with me through out the day. I know fund raising is hard work and I approach it realistic expectations.I am grateful for every little bit I can get. At first I thought the venue would be too small. but in the need it was just right. At the stroke of 2:30 fabulous volunteers took charge and helped me set up  the place. Talk about tons of amazing food! The volunteers came through with some amazing dishes. One could barely make it down the buffet  and their plate was full. It would have taken three to four trips alone to sample all. The cash bar was flowing too. The afternoon was perfect and , while a small crowd, we managed to take in more at the door than online. Chicago foodies had a chance to meet and connect with others. Through their tweets and re tweets they inspired others to donate or attend one of the other cities events.  It was classic Midwest, down to earth , simple, and real.So you see the ripple effect happening here?

 And in the end, after we all cleaned up , the beginning of another heavy snow started. With so much food left,  even after people took their share, we had a few trays left. Homeless shelters in Chicago don't allow you to donate leftovers  food from restaurants ,events, etc. due to health laws.So Certain Someone and I packed the trunk up and drove down to Lower Wacker. Lower Wacker a long running street underground that the many homeless people live on. Its not unusual to see tents and men and women making a home in a dark corner buffeted from the harsh  lakefront winter winds or sweltering summer heat. So Certain Someone and I found a man in his blankets who was eating something in wrapper. We stopped the car and explained we had food leftover from a party. He was happy to get it and the some paper goods so he could share it with others in his community. See the ripple effect at work here. It takes a massive devastating event to remind people to come together and  care for one another. Stir It 28 did that. Haiti will continue to need help even after these next few months. Rebuilding will take years. So whether your efforts are grand or small, everything is and will be appreciated. I cant say Thank You enough.

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